This delicious and healthful vegetable is not grown in private gardens to any great extent. Many seem to entertain the opinion that it is a special crop that can only be raised on special soils, such as drained swamps by trenching. But it can be grown in any good garden soil with level culture. Henderson truly says: "Almost all private cultivators still think it necessary to dig out trenches from six to twelve inches deep, involving great labor and expense, and giving a very inferior crop to that planted on the level surface, in the manner practised by market-gardeners."
Celery is an autumn crop, and in our dry summer climate it is fortunate that the main demand is in late autumn and winter. It loves the cooler and moister air of the autumn months, and is usually planted as a second crop, following peas, early corn, and other early crops. The seed is sown in the open ground in early May on rich mellow ground, rather thinly, in rows eight to ten inches apart. At the West the seeds are merely pressed into the soil and the bed is covered with a mulching of prairie hay until they begin to germinate, when it is removed and the soil between the rows is raked and weeds kept down.
In cooler climates, like that of Long Island, the seeds will germinate when planted an inch deep without mulching, but even there the soil is usually covered with burlap while the seed is sprouting, to conserve moisture and to keep the soil cooler. As growth progresses the tops are clipped or pinched back to develop stocky plants, and when small they are thinned so as not to crowd each other. Usually the plants are set out for cropping at the West about the middle of July for late fall and winter use, in moist soil six inches apart in the rows, which are usually laid out about four feet apart, where the crop is bleached in the field. But the dwarf kinds, merely bleached by slight mounding, are planted in rows three feet apart.
The first growth is inclined to spread out over the ground. To correct this habit, what is known as "handling" is practised. This is merely drawing up earth with the hands under the drooping stalks and pressing it firmly to them as a suppprt. In after-hoeing, earth is drawn up until they are banked so as to hold the stalks upright. This handling and banking is all the bleaching given to the dwarf self-bleaching varieties, such as the White Plume.
For family use there is not much gain in planting the large-growing varieties that require bleaching by high banking with earth or boards. Such varieties as White Plume and Golden Dwarf give the least trouble and are not excelled in quality.
In storing for late use the plants can be packed close together in boxes, with the lower part of the stems and roots covered with moist sand. These boxes are best kept in a root-cave, but will do nearly as well in a cold, moist cellar. The temperature should be kept low, and for late use it should be left out as late as possible. The plants are not injured by ordinary autumn frosts, and with some straw covering they can usually be left out until the last of November in the prairie States.